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What Declan Kidney has made of Munster and their Ed Sheeran gaffe

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Matt Browne/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

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Ex-Munster boss Declan Kidney was diplomacy personified when quizzed this week about the bizarre decision by his old club to schedule a concert at Thomond Park for the same weekend as their home Heineken Champions Cup quarter-final. It was a while ago when the cash-starved Irish province agreed to allow Ed Sheeran to play two nights at Thomond Park in Limerick.

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The English pop star is pencilled in at the ground for May 5 and May 6, a commitment that has forced Munster to relinquish home advantage in Limerick for their May 7 European quarter-final versus Toulouse and instead play the game 120 miles away at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin.   

It’s a bizarre twist of fate for the rugby club whose reputation in hosting memorable Champions Cup matches in Limerick is massively treasured. Only last weekend, Exeter, the 2020 European and Gallagher Premiership champions, spoke glowing about their latest experience of playing at Thomond Park despite their round of 16 defeat. 

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Munster’s progress to the quarter-finals was confirmed shortly before 5pm last Saturday but it was only around 10pm that night, shortly after Antoine Dupont scored a decisive converted try in Belfast, that it was confirmed that Johann van Graan’s team had secured a home last-eight match against champions Toulouse rather than having to play away to Ulster at the Kingspan Stadium.  

There has been much debate in the aftermath about the situation that has transpired for Munster and Kidney, who guided the club to its European triumphs in 2006 and 2008 before going on to coach Ireland to the 2009 Grand Slam, has now given his view about a match that will take place in front of twice as big an attendance in Dublin rather than around 26,000 fans in Limerick.

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Asked at his midweek London Irish media briefing what he make of the carry-on back home regarding Munster and the non-availability of Thomond Park for the glamour European match, Kidney said: “Look, all these decisions are made at a certain time and if people had wishing glasses to see what is ahead of them, would they make the same decisions? But that said, every player looks forward to playing in his national stadium and I’m sure it will balance out with that.

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“That creates an atmosphere in itself and if Munster had 50,000 supporters as against the 27,000 that would be packed into Thomond Park, then you gain on one hand and you lose on the other. But yeah, I am not going to get into the middle of that one I’m afraid.”

Kidney added that it wasn’t only the rugby schedule that the Sheeran tour of Ireland has affected, going on to explain how the Cork GAA football team have also given up home advantage for its Munster championship Gaelic match against Kerry. “I’m from Cork and if you look into what is going on there with the football, it’s the same thing. They were supposed to play Kerry in the championship but Ed Sheehan is playing at Pairc Ui Chaoimh. There is definitely a paragraph in there somewhere.”

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